Exploring the relationships between heritage tourism, sustainable community development and host communities’ health and wellbeing: A systematic review

Emma Louise Waterton, Hayley Anne Saul, Cristy Brooks, Andre Renzaho

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Previous studies examining the impact of heritage tourism have focused on specific ecological, economic, political, or cultural impacts. Research focused on the extent to which heritage tourism fosters host communities’ participation and enhances their capacity to flourish and support long-term health and wellbeing is lacking. This systematic review assessed the impact of heritage tourism on sustainable community development, as well as the health and wellbeing of local communities. Studies were included if they: (i) were conducted in English; (ii) were published between January 2000 and March 2021; (iii) used qualitative and/or quantitative methods; (iv) analysed the impact of heritage tourism on
sustainable community development and/or the health and wellbeing of local host communities; and (v) had a full-text copy available. The search identified 5292 articles, of which 102 articles met the inclusion criteria. The included studies covering six WHO regions (Western Pacific, African, Americas, South-East Asia, European, Eastern Mediterranean, and multiple regions). These studies show that heritage tourism had positive and negative impacts on social determinants of health. Positive impacts included economic gains, rejuvenation of culture, infrastructure development, and improved social services. However, heritage tourism also had deleterious effects on health, such as restrictions placed on local community participation and access to land, loss of livelihood, relocation and/or fragmentation of communities, increased outmigration, increases in crime, and erosion of culture. Thus, while heritage tourism may be a poverty-reducing strategy, its success depends on the inclusion of host communities in heritage tourism governance, decision-making processes, and access to resources and programs. Future policymakers are encouraged to adopt a holistic view of benefits along with detriments to sustainable heritage tourism development. Additional research should consider the health and wellbeing of local community groups engaged in heritage tourism. Protocol PROSPERO registration number: CRD42018114681.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages83
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Feb 2023

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